Sunday, November 25, 2012

Edublog Award Nominations

I've written before about how much I love the Edublog Awards.  But that won't stop me from doing it again this year! :)  Truly, these virtual awards are an annual tradition that I look forward to each year!  Why?  Because no matter who takes home the prize, we all win!  Here's how it works:

Every year, around this time, the education community comes together to recognize the bloggers, tweeters and digital teaching and learning leaders who have influenced both our collective educational conversation and real instructional practice all year. These nods are delightful.  I love to see who others nominate and I'd be a big fat liar if I didn't admit that being a first time finalist last year was a total thrill!  But the really good stuff happens when the winners are announced in mid December, because then we all get to add a bunch of fabulous names to our twitter and RSS feeds. This year, I am really looking forward to updating our PLN Start Kit with all the resources shared via the Edublog process.  See how that works? Like I said last year, no matter who takes home the shiny edublogger badge for their virtual mantelpiece, we're all winners!

So here's what you gotta do:
  1. Write a post with your nominations for the different categories on your own blog (or a website – anywhere public)
  2. Send a link to your nomination post via this form.
That's all there is to it. Easy peasy!

So, in keeping with the spirit of the awards, which is to promote and demonstrate the educational value of social media, here are my nominations:

[drum roll please]

Best individual blog:  The Daring Librarian by Gwyneth Jones - Gwyneth, like baby, cannot be put in a corner.  She blogs about library stuff, tech stuff, teacher stuff, PD stuff, how to be a rock star presenter stuff and all sorts of other stuff too!  Her blog was the first one I ever added to my Google Reader and it remains my go to source for just about everything.
Best group blog:  Level Up Book Club.  Even though I contribute to Level Up, I have to nominate it because I love it so, so much.  2012 has definitely been The Year of The Game for me.  I've learned so much about Game Based Learning and how the brain responds to learning opportunities that engage the affective part of the brain this year - and much of that is due to Level Up.  I look forward to seeing how this community of learners grows next year.
Best ed tech / resource sharing blog:  Blogging About The Web2.0Classroom by Steven Anderson.  This blog continues to be a treasure trove of resources.  I look forward to each post and reflection.
Best library / librarian blog:  The Busy Librarian by Matthew Winner.  I love Matthew's blog because it's a beautiful mixture of the professional and the personal. In it, he shares everything from lesson plans and  pedagogical "aha! moments" to the books he reads to his 3 year old son to reflections on how hard it is sometimes, to be so much (as a librarian, a leader, a learner, a father, husband, friend, etc.), to so many people.  Like its author, this blog is fast paced, super generous and just plain fun to read!
Best administrator blog:  The Principal of Change by George Couros.  I would give my right arm (or left if he prefered) to work for George Couros.  If the school he runs is even half as inspirational as his blog, I am so in. I love reading his blog for the admin's perspective and because it's inspiring to see how much he obviously loves his job.
Most influential blog post:  Common Core Love It Or Hate It? by Tamara Cox.  Tamara has been a leader in helping school librarians prepare for the Common Core and this post "tells it like it is"  to some pretty powerful nay sayers.  Preach it, sister!
Best individual tweeter:  Richard Byrne.  This man is a machine.  'Nuff said.
Best twitter hashtag:  #tlchat  I've written about how much I love #tlchat before, so this nomination shouldn't be a shocker.  However, this year, teacher librarian chat has grown to include a live chat - which occurs the second Monday of each month - giving us another way to share our TL power!
Best free web tool:  Edmodo.  I've been an Edmodo fan forever, but this year I've used it as a PD tool for the librarians in my district and have loved it!
Best educational use of audio / video / visual / podcast:  Circulating Ideas by Steve Thomas.  I gotta admit, I love this podcast most because it gives me a chance to connect with some of my library heroes in a new way.  It's just plain fun to HEAR the voices of the folks I admire so much.  Plus, Steve does a great job of making each podcast seem just like a conversation between two old friends.  It's good, good stuff.
Best open PD / unconference / webinar series: TL Virtual Cafe.  What can I say?  the TL Virtual Cafe continues to roll out high quality, just in time professional development month after month - like the post office, neither rain nor sleet nor hurricane Sandy can stop this PD juggernaut.
Best mobile app:  Zite.  As far as my own professional development goes,  I don't think I use any app more regularly than Zite.  I also think there's a big, big discussion to be had about how information is curated for us via search engines AND how knowing that should influence us (and our students') as we evaluate not only resources but actual search results.  That said, Zite is a customized magazines that figures out what you like and brings it to you.  What's more, this model is the future of search.
Lifetime achievement:  Doug Johnson.   Doug is my hero. End of story - well, not quite.  I love, love, love Doug's blog because a) it is always honest - even when folks are not interested in the truth, b) it is always current - Doug always seems to have his finger on the pulse of what's next and c) it is always funny AND smart - my fave combination.  Doug has says he has been leaving readers confused at a higher level since 2005 and I for one hope he continues to confuse (inspire and teach) us for many years to come! 

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

I've Been Everywhere, Man.

I've been getting some questions lately about what my new job entails.  The title "Educator on Loan" doesn't paint a very clear picture, I suppose.  That said, since so much of what I do is at the request of school districts around my state, I feel like my role is ever evolving - which is kind of exciting.  It also means I'm on the road a lot - which is also kind of exciting.  Although I'm putting A LOT of my miles on my car, I'm also learning so, so much from the different programs I've had the chance to visit.  Plus, I feel like I always come home with a few more friends than I left with.  And what's not to like about that?

Anyway, in attempt to document my adventures and to be reflective in my practice, I've created a google map where I pin all the places I visit.  Each pin contains a short reflection on what I did/learned at each location along with, in a lot of cases, a photo from/related to the event.


Of course, there are some places that I've already visited multiple times, so... if you're really interested in following me, you're gonna have to do some zooming.  I look forward to watching the map fill with blue pins as time goes on.  I'm certainly learning a lot about how to navigate my state AND I'm learning that even in a state like ours, that has adopted the Common Core Standards AND has gone to great lengths to provide a state-wide vision for what library programs should look like within that framework, I'm seeing first hand how differently districts interpret and implement that.  As varied as library programs are around the country and world, so too are they within a given state and even, in some cases, district.  Again, it's exciting to be a part of it.

Switching gears...

In the spirit of sharing, I also wanted to, well... share the slides from a recent presentation I did for ALA Tech Source.   These slides are related to a 4 day series of workshops I completed during the second week of November.  I gotta tell you, this was a GREAT experience and I'm thankful for having had the opportunity to share/learn with the wonderful group of public/academic/school librarians who attended. It was a blast.

So... that's what I've been up to.  Although I definitely miss seeing kids every day, I'm finding myself challenged and rewarded in whole new ways.  It's an exciting time and as we head into the Thanksgiving holidays in my neck of the woods, I can't help but be super grateful.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Why I Blog

It's hard to believe, but I started this blog over four years ago.  Even as I write that out, there's a part of me that thinks my math must be wrong.  But it's not.

I started it because, as a fairly new school librarian at the time, I was, to put it bluntly, lonely.  I'd been a classroom teacher for many years prior to jumping into the library, and although both professions can be somewhat isolating, I'd never in my career felt as lonely as I did those first few years in the library.  It's not that I wasn't surrounded by nice people. because I surely was.   What's more, as a classroom teacher, I'd certainly grown accustomed to spending most of my day talking to little (as opposed to big) people.  None of that made me lonely.

What I was missing in the library was camaraderie - a team, a department, a group of other librarians with whom I could plan, scheme and grow.  As close as I was with several teachers at my school at the time, it wasn't quite the same.  I needed a network of other librarians.  People who "got it."  Who understood what I did and why I was so passionate about it.

So... I set out to find a tribe.  And this blog was a first step.

Needless to say, in the last four years, much has changed:  not the least of which being that the network I so needed back then has now grown and flourished in ways I could never have predicted.  As a school librarian/educator on loan, I am far more connected now than I ever was as a classroom teacher.  And as such, I don't think I've ever been so productive or so fulfilled.  Now, I am the opposite of lonely.  Both my personal and professional lives (as it is often difficult to separate the two) are teeming with dynamic, meaningful connections - and I could not be more grateful.

One thing that remains constant, however, is this space.  No matter where my adventures take me, I continue to find my way back here.  Why?  Because education is a profession that cannot be accomplished by standing still.  Because no matter how many years closer I am to retirement I creep, I cannot stop growing.  And because through this blog, I am able to:

Connect:  If there's one thing I know, education is definitely a team sport.  My first year teaching one of the administrators on my staff told me that the best advice she could give me would be to "avoid the teacher's lounge and just shut your door and teach."  I'm so glad I didn't listen to her.  While the teacher's lounge is certainly not what I would call a hot bed of innovation, trying to go it alone is a mistake - one that both you and your students will suffer for.   Whether in a traditional classroom, a lab or a library, teaching is hard, hard work.  And for me, the only successful antidote has always been collaboration.  That said, this space continues to provide me with a place to share my ideas, listen to the ideas of others and grow as a practitioner.  People don't always agree with what I post here but the honest feedback I've received over the years has proven invaluable.  I know that I am a much, much better educator today than I was four years ago, and this blog has certainly been instrumental in that growth.

Lead:  I continue to believe that school librarians have an important leadership role to play in our buildings and communities.  Whether we're talking about the Library at Alexandria, the Library of Congress or the school library around the corner, libraries have always been the cornerstone of knowledge creation in our society.  What we do is important.   What's more, in the school setting, we are in an incredibly unique position of working with every child, every teacher and every administrator in the building - and with everybody else in between too.  Our fingers touch just about all of the learning materials that go into the hands of students and staff.  We are often the only person in the building who understands every grade/every subject's curriculum.  And we are both certified teachers as well as certified program administrators.  If that doesn't spell leadership, I don't know what does! Over the years, this blog has provided me with a platform - a bully pulpit if you will - from which to expand the leadership role I play in our profession.  In addition to being an instructional leader in my building and district, I've used this space to take others by the hand and kick still others in the hiney, when necessary, in order to move our profession forward (in my own small way).  When I started this blog, I'd have never imagined that it would help me grow as a leader, but it has, and I take that responsibility very seriously.

Reflect:  Not enough educators take the time to truly reflect on their work.  And I understand why.  Given the mountain of responsibilities we all shoulder, taking a few minutes to really reflect on what we do, ask important questions about why and how we do it and let the answers evolve our practice can seem like a luxury.  But that is dangerous thinking.  As an English teacher, I used to tell my students that writing was a process of vision and then revision (and then revision and revision and revision, etc).  Good teaching is the same. We only get better by sharing what we do, examining the cracks in our work and then using what we learn in the process, and from each other, to strengthen it.  This process is not a luxury.  It is an absolute necessity.  Of course, I am not saying that every educator should be required to blog. But I do think there should be mechanisms in place to not only allow but also nudge every educator towards frequent and meaningful reflection.  For me, this blog has been my primary spot for doing that and I can't put into words what it has meant to me.  I'm a better writer, a better teacher and, in some ways, a better person as a result.  It's that big.  It's that important.

So... that's why I blog.  It's not about hits, comments or stats - although I would be lying if I didn't say that I wasn't a little excited by each new follower.  It's about something much, much bigger.  And while I certainly benefit as a result, the other teachers, librarians and students I work with each day benefit too - and that's far more important.

In the end, I have to admit that this post feels a little like a betrayal - like I'm about to uncover some closely guarded secret - because surely if EVERYONE knew how impactful having a blog could be EVERYONE would be doing it.  But, really, this post is a thank you to everyone reading it and especially to those who have been here for all four years.  Thanks for sticking with me.  Here's to the next four!